Music & Revolution: An Interview with the Venezuelan Band, Bituaya

04/07/2015 05:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2015

I had the privilege of interviewing Bituaya, a very diverse Venezuelan band -- with roots in the Afro-Venezuela, indigenous and white communities -- that fuses electronic and Caribbean music. They have been performing for the past five years, and have traveled around the world -- to such places as the U.S., France and Iran -- to share their music as well as the lessons of the Venezuelan revolution.

DK: Is there a political aspect to what you do?

Yes, in the sense that we conceive of politics as public, relating to all of us who live in cities. We want to offer solutions from Venezuela. We want to be part of the solution to all the problems of life: housing, health. We think new structures of power must be created, or, rather, empowered people -- empowered people who can think about their health, food, entertainment....

DK: Do you see your work as inspired by Chavismo?

For us, Chávez or Chavismo is a way of being now. We learned that it was possible. We learned that we should be and do for ourselves. We should be the ones to find solutions, to make proposals, to build based on a relationship of equality with other cultures. In that regard, Chávez and Chavismo have been an inspiration. It has also been like a sort of protective sphere which has enabled our creativity to explode to the nth degree. It has enabled us to experiment, to undertake processes and projects, whether they're musical, artistic or social. It has been our framework and our space. It has given us free reign to experiment, to fail, to try again, to fail again, to find the right ways of doing things.But above all, it was as if we untied the ropes that bound us. It was as though our souls were dominated or enslaved. Due to Chávez and the Revolution, we are full human beings.

DK: It's interesting you say that because the U.S. media has tried to portray the Venezuelan government as repressive and cracking down on creativity. You seem to have a very different perspective.

Well, there are interests behind that portrayal. But what is happening in Venezuela is irreversible because within Chavismo as well as the opposition there's democracy and a process steeped in democracy. There is ongoing discussion, ongoing reflection, ongoing proposals. There are many organized people. Not long ago our collective went on a national tour of communes, of the most organized communes, which are a type of organization that is self-governed and is being encouraged throughout the country. It's actually incredible what's going on away from the cities, away from wi-fi, away from cameras. Deep inside the backwoods and mountains, in rural places, where they understand what's going on in terms of the economics of our country. Where they know about production, about planting, about lands. They know because their grandparents taught them and that's how they fed their families. Now our mission is to feed the entire country, to disconnect ourselves from a way of life that is hard to disconnect from. To produce all that we need. That is the new challenge we are facing, but it is not just a challenge for the government or President, it's a challenge all of us Venezuelans are taking on. As a band, we have to produce entertainment, music, for people to listen to our music, to value it, to enjoy it. Filmmakers have to produce films, and entertain people. In the same way, farmers have to produce the food we'll eat, others the textiles we use. This can't be done in just 15 years. This is a long-term process... What we're going to do is produce and be reborn, like a phoenix from the ashes.

DK: If you were able to say anything to the American people, what would you like to say?

We would tell the people of the U.S. that we are in no way a threat. We are your siblings. We invite you to learn about us and our process, not through the media but through visiting. Visiting rural areas, visiting beaches -- it's a very beautiful country. There's like burning flame of passion and desire to build another type of world. A livable world in which we respect one another. You would find a country where the people are constantly discussing, thinking, reflecting, studying, being wrong and being right. We are with the U.S. people. We were in Austin for South by Southwest and saw something that once could have been like Tiuna el Fuerte but will never be that. Sometimes we feel as though the things that happen here [in the U.S.] are so intense or that the repression is so surgical, that it starts dousing the flame in your soul. In Venezuela, ours is burning like a volcano. The message is this: it is possible. Despite how giant this system is, despite Google and the CIA having all your data, we can build a different world and that is the only thing we can do. Because if we don't, if what's happening in Latin America -which is a counterpoint of ideas, cultures, beliefs -- if that doesn't happen around the world, if we don't achieve the conditions around the planet for that to be the battle, for it to be a battle of ideas rather than of gunpowder and missiles, then the future will not be very encouraging. We love the U.S. people very much. We are with them... We hope that all of the people of the world who live in this country aim to change it because that would be inspiring for all of us and for everyone around the world. We would like to invite President Obama's daughters to Tiuna el Fuerte so that they can convince their dad that Venezuela is not a threat. And that we know how to party.